Santa Monicans take elections seriously. Usually it’s the top of the ticket that brings people out to vote. But the top of the ticket was a no contest race with Governor Jerry Brown, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and State Attorney General Kamala Harris handily keeping their place on the November ballot. In Santa Monica the races were a lot more exciting.
Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver are in a runoff to replace Zev Yaroslavsky as the next 3rd District Supervisor in the upcoming November general election. Santa Monica/Malibu School Board Member Ben Allen will face public advocate Sandra Fluke in a run-off for 26th District State Senator.
I spoke with all four candidates about campaigning, about their issue and policy goals, and about their leadership skills and about public service. What follows is a snapshot of each candidate.
Candidate for 3rd District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl
Kuehl talked about campaigning saying, “We started the campaign in March 2013 to work on fundraising and on building and reinvigorating a base of supporters as we knew we would need to raise $1.2 million for the campaign. We built the website, organized social media and I started to write regular essays ‘County 101’ on County government and issues.
“I like campaigning. It puts me in touch with so many great and interesting people.
“We met with voters by going to meetings of local organizations, we sent out direct mail. Our mail started to go out the same day the voter pamphlet went out. We had phone banks. All our contact was direct. No TV ads.
“Leadership on the Board of Supervisors is both District focused and County focused. There are two aspects to the work of a Supervisor. Everything in every District is on the agenda at the Tuesday Board of Supervisor’s meeting. You have to know about everything and be prepared to act on everything – from golf courses to jails – and every decision is important.
“As a Supervisor I would focus on Foster Child Care, Health Care for all, and improving transportation in the region.
“Foster children are not getting the care they need and deserve. There are recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission for large structural changes. Instead of many agencies each responsible for a part of care for foster children, combine into one agency, a ‘Department of Children’, if you will. With more social workers and more support staff. Also there’s a bill pending in Sacramento to equalize pay for kin and non-kin foster parents. Currently non-kin foster parents receive higher levels of support for each child they foster. This bill would provide the same support for every child.
“The County is responsible for a huge health system – LA Care – for MediCal patients and for kids formerly enrolled in the State’s Healthy Families program. We need to increase financial support for health care and develop insurance for those who can’t qualify under ObamaCare.
“Transportation – getting from one part of the County to another is a challenge. We need to make it possible to travel on public transportation with as few transfers as possible. We need to build the Valley to LAX line and we need a ‘first mile-last mile’ strategy – a way to plot a door-to-door trip.
On raising campaign money and on ethics Kuehl said, “Bobby (Shriver) contributed his own money to the campaign. I can’t match him for personal wealth. So we have to wait and see what the rules will be in the general and that depends on Bobby. What I can say is that I’m thrilled and really looking forward to the next five months.”
Candidate for 3rd District Supervisor Bobby Shriver
Shriver talked about campaigning in the County saying, “Campaigning is great. I met people doing amazing things all over the District. We did lots of events. It’s a great way to meet people and to learn about the work they’re doing. I visited women living with their children in supportive housing, I went to Farmer’s markets to meet people, to chamber meetings, everywhere people were getting together.
“I continue to work on my goal of creating housing for homeless people. The new housing at the Veteran’s Administration, housing for homeless Vets, is a project I worked hard to create.
“Water is important to the whole State and of particular importance to the County with major issues of water quality and water conservation at the beaches and in the Valley.
“Transportation is on everyone’s mind. We need to finish the Purple Line and build the Valley to LAX line. We need to make it possible to get from door to door without a car.
“The County has the responsibility for the protection of foster children and that responsibility has been failed way too many times. I would create one agency with one person in charge and accountable, and to build on the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission.
“My leadership skills are best shown through my own experiences. As part of my work to eradicate HIV/AIDS I got George Bush to give 15 Billion to treat people in Africa who were suffering with HIV/AIDS. It took two years of doing nothing but that work to get it done. And for a Shriver to get a Republican Administration to give money for a program to fight AIDS in Africa I had to be focused like a laser beam.
When asked about campaign ethics and campaign finance Shriver said, “We are allowed to raise $1.4 million and to accept donations of up to $1500/person. If a candidate wants to spend over the limit then individual donations must be limited to $300/person.”
Campaign Manager Sarah Dusseault said, “In the primary Bobby chose to put in some of his own money and went over the limit. Individual donations to the campaign were capped at $300.00. Still we raised $900,000 from over 3000 individual donors. That speaks very well for the campaign.”
Shriver said, “It will take us some time to figure out what is right for us in the general election, but whatever we do it will be transparent. You show your ethics by how you run your own campaign.
“I swear too much and I’ve been called on it. Blame me for what I do wrong, not what I do right.”
Candidate for State Senate 26th District Ben Allen
Speaking about the campaign Allen said, “I introduced my self to folks outside Santa Monica and we reached tens of thousands of people. We knocked on doors, we had phone banks and we went to events. I’m thrilled by results and humbled – especially by support form my hometown. It is an honor to represent them and all the people of the District.
“We spent over $400,000 raised from online donations and I loaned the campaign $50,000. We had a real mix of donations small and large. Hundreds of donors gave from $10 to the maximum allowed of $4100 and, of course, all donations are reported so everyone can see who supports each campaign.
“I think I offer deep roots. I was born and raised in the District. I was a member of the Board of Regents at the University of CA. I’ve been elected to two terms in the Santa Malibu Unified School District so I’ve served in both local and State government positions.
“I was able to get a measure passed by the Regents requiring professional schools to increase loan forgiveness for people who used their degrees to work in non profit and public interest sectors. This increased awareness within the system of loan forgiveness, which I thought was essential if it was going to be necessary to raise fees.
“In Santa Monica we worked on school financing, passing propositions which gave schools stable and steady income even as state funding dropped.
“Going to Sacramento is an exiting possibility in that you could really make a difference. My goals are to protect the Santa Monica Mountains, create more open space, and enhance environmental protection, especially in the Santa Monica Bay.
“I want to guarantee a free higher education degree to students in the top 10 percent of their class who agree to spend 5 years teaching after graduation. We need the best and the brightest in the teaching profession. We need to fund and support early childhood education.
“It’s extraordinary how far behind CA is on transportation issues. We need to have advocates at all levels working together to create a working transportation system that includes and supports walkability and bikeability. Transportation is becoming a black eye for Los Angeles and our ability to attract residents and business at risk. And, of course, water is a statewide issue because of the drought, the need for water conservation and the protection of water quality.”
In response to the question of campaign reform Allen said, “I think it’s a great question and a great idea for candidates to make an agreement to have a positive campaign. It’s in the best interest of the voters and the best interest of the candidates. Sandra and I both care about campaign reform and want to work to get ‘pay to play’ out of the culture of Sacramento.”
Candidate for State Senator 26th District Sandra Fluke
“I’m not someone who thought for a long time about running for office,” said Fluke. “I’ve been devoted to public interest work. I’ve done legislative advocacy and represented indigent clients. And I’ve seen what I can accomplish as a lawyer and advocate and thought of how much more I could accomplish as a legislator and that is why I chose to run for office. The decision is not more complicated than giving voice to people without voice.
“I’m also concerned about the number of women in office and helping to make sure government looks more like the people.
“I’m looking to be most effective and where I can pass legislation for maximum impact. That commits me to working in CA because we in CA can make a national impact.
“My commitment comes from shared values with my parents and the place where I grew up – a rural, conservative community in Central PA and they are still trying to figure out what went wrong with me!
“My husband and I starting making our home in California about seven years ago. He is a writer and producer and works in the Industry. He worked on Lopez Tonight and on JibJab – internet based comedy videos.”
“Being a State Senator will allow me to be even more effective as I work for environmental protections, a fracking moratorium, and particularly important in a coastal district is the crisis over water. I work for local solutions for environmental problems.
“We also need to increase our investment in early childhood education, not only important for closing the achievement gap but it is also one of the most effective investment in education that we can make. CA is one of the lowest states in the Country on per pupil investment and that’s unacceptable. And we have to make sure college is affordable and jobs are available to graduates.”
Abigail Gardner, Communications Consultant to the Fluke campaign said, “Our campaign wanted to use every medium. We made over 100,000 voter contacts. We knocked on doors and made phone calls, used social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Sandra sent regular, weekly emails to supporters and volunteers.
“It was a point of pride for Sandra that there were no independent expenditure campaigns for or against her. And that the campaign was entirely supported by over 1800 donors and average donation was under $250,” said Gardner.
When asked about campaign reform Fluke said, “Ben and I are in regular contact with each other but campaign reform is a bigger issue than our campaign and we need to work on this in Sacramento – increasing transparency, providing matching funds. It’s clear that people really want to see action taken and that special interests have too much influence and control.
“Every candidate has control over donations to their campaign. I’m proud that my focus has been on community support.”